Montana's New Wetlands Strategic Plan
HELENA, Montana, March 21, 2008 (ENS) - Montana has lost about 27 percent of naturally occurring wetlands since settlement, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality. The federal Clean Water Act requires mitigation for some wetland filling and dredging, however, wetlands continue to be impacted and lost as roads are expanded, land is developed and due to cumulative impacts from numerous activities such as draining, changes in land management and landowner preference for open water ponds.
The dark green line of vegetation lying lowest in this valley is a wetland. (Photo courtesy Government of Montana)

To address this loss and prevent further losses, Montana has drafted a strategic wetlands program to guide the state's wetlands policy over the next five years.

The program will be activated by the Montana Wetland Council, which meets quarterly and acts a forum for all stakeholders to participate in wetland issues.

A new report prepared by Lynda Saul, Wetland Program manager with the Montana DEQ, sets out eight strategic directions where the Montana Wetland Council will focus its leadership, energy, activity, and resources over the next five years in order to achieve its vision for the future.

The report, "Priceless Resources: A Strategic Framework for Wetland and Riparian Area Conservation and Restoration in Montana 2008-2012," addresses these eight directions.

Wetland conservation priorities are funded by a U.S. EPA grant program administered by the DEQ Wetland Coordinator. Currently, there are 20 active grant projects involving state and local governments.

These projects range from an evaluation of wetland impacts in Montana, to developing education and information about Montana wetlands, to a local partnership composed of local government, wetland ecologist and community volunteers to inventory wetlands for restoration and management needs. Wetland grant projects are solicited each fall and for approved projects, funding is available the following spring.

The EPA has identified six core elements critical to effective, comprehensive wetland programs - regulation, monitoring and assessment, restoration, water quality standards, public-private partnerships, and coordination.

In addition, the EPA considers outreach and education and a watershed approach to be inherent components of all water resource programs.

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